About nine days ago I woke up in pain. Yup, you read that correctly. Pain. Not discomfort, pain. Anything that passes six on a scale of one to ten is pain. I'd put this right up there with child birth (labor, anyway) and the time Florkow had to use the flashlight in Costa Rica. It didn't last very long because it got my attention and I moved but good god! It started at the back of my neck maybe at C2? and radiated up my skull, down my spine, out my arms and all the way to my fingertips. I was lying on my back and I don't think I'd moved much so I'm not sure what happened exactly. I tried to roll on my right side. I made it about two inches. OK. Let's try to the left. A little better, four inches and also I don't have an icepick in my skull anymore but this is still pretty damn nasty. I moved side to side until I got an elbow on the bed and tried to come up. Holy shit. Any weight on the arm sends the icepick back into the skull. I rolled off the bed, stood up, and immediately ingested four ibuprofen from the bottle on the night table. Don't judge me, monkey. I know exactly what the maximum therapeutic dose is; you just can't take it more than once every twenty-four hours.
I staggered down the hall to the kitchen because, priorities. Coffee. Three cups later I put myself into the shower and forty-five minutes later I had this shit down to a three. Fifteen minutes after my exit from Shangri-La I was back up to a six. Apparently 800 mg of ibuprofen wasn't going to do jack shit and there was no point in chasing it with acetaminophen or naproxen. I wondered about getting back in or on the bed sans pillow. I pulled the covers back from the bed and looked at the mattress.
We bought this thing, David and I back in the spring of 2005 when we knew we were moving to this house and we really needed to get his six foot two inch frame into a queen size bed because he was sleeping diagonally across the standard size bed I'd had since I was seventeen BECAUSE the antique frame had a curved foot board which wouldn't allow feet to hang off the bottom in any direction. I was sleeping curled up like a cat. We gave the mattress a good deal of thought and in the end spent a stupid amount of money on one of those memory foam things because 1) the timeshare we stayed at in Vermont had one we absolutely loved and 2) we nearly fell asleep on the floor model of the one we eventually selected. It weighed nine hundred pounds.
OK, it does not weigh nine hundred pounds but it might as well weigh that much.
Unfortunately we lived in a fairly old Colonial with a hard left turn at a VERY narrow landing which would not accommodate a queen size box spring so that thing sat in the garage until August when we moved and was therefore in the first shipment of things to be moved by us in a rental truck ahead of the moving company. It was also one of the last things to come in the house. It's hot in August. Lucia and I had gotten to the point of severely hangry when David decided to run into town for food and more fluid. He was gone for years. At the end of year two we'd cleared everything from the truck that could be lifted and carried by just the two of us. I think the only thing remaining was the mattress; the box spring was already on the bedroom floor (we didn't buy the bed frame for another two months). We looked at that thing sideways for a couple of minutes, attempted to lift it, realized we could only carry it four or five inches at a time and gave up. We sat at the edge of the truck and waited another two years. We were very hangry, very hangry, and incredibly thirsty. We were also not smart enough to drink directly from the faucet.
I looked at Lucia and said, I'm not pleased at the idea of having to depend on a man to move something. That doesn't work for me. Does it work for you? Lucia glared at me. I told Lucia about the time I moved a box spring and mattress single handedly from my parents' bedroom, down the hall, through the house, across the gravel driveway, up a full flight of stairs, and into the loft above the garage when I was sixteen. She was not as duly impressed as I expected her to be. I informed her that she should be duly impressed. She said it wasn't a queen size bed full of bricks. I said, Lucia, we don't need no mans. This is borrowed from a line from Sex in the City when a single woman looking for a husband is warned that if she doesn't get moving she's going to end up with NO MANS!!!
LUCIA! WE DON'T NEED NO STINKING MANS! GET UP!
So that's how it came to be that Lucia and I dragged/carried that nine hundred pound mattress full of bricks out of the truck, up the two mile walkway, up the porch stairs, across the foyer, up six more stairs, around the bend, and then slid it down the hall, into the bedroom and slapped that thing down onto the boxspring.
NoMans! NoMans! NoMans! we sang. And we weren't hangry anymore; we were too damn pleased with ourselves. When David returned from the wars with our lunch and fluids we showed him what we'd done and explained that we did not require NoMans and from that point forward he was to be called NoMans and despite the fact that we did not under any circumstances require his services we loved and wanted him anyway. Surprisingly he was OK with that.
Back to the bed.
I staggered down the hall, pulled back the covers and looked at my eleven year old memory foam bed which, I really need to note has only actually been slept in for five years full time and then served as a guest room bed for six years so this means it's REALLY NOT THAT EFFING OLD.
I pulled back the covers and looked at my not as old as its actual years bed and looked at the crater where my body goes. I looked at the other side of the bed. You could have skied down that slope. I noticed the crater didn't include where my head goes but oddly enough seemed to extend down toward my feet at a more gradual slope. The drop off at my head was alarming. That could not possibly have been there when I got into the bed the night before. Surely I would have noticed that. As an aside, I often dispense with my pillow either at the beginning or in the middle of the night if my neck or head feel the least bit off because sleeping flat is the best thing for my neck if it's having problems and the best thing for a migraine. Surely I would have noticed something this extreme.
I walked around to the other side of the bed because the obvious solution was to either sleep on the other side or to just spin the thing so that the crater was away from me. I got onto the bed gingerly, protecting my head and neck. Yes, this felt very, very good. It felt very, very good right up until I started to slide into the crater. I wiggled back toward the edge of the bed until I had a three inch margin. Surely this will be enough. No. Gradually I started to slide back toward the crater. I was confounded. When I looked at the bed there seemed to be plenty of room on the wrong side of the bed. I got back up and looked at it. Horrors. The crater was eating the wrong side of the bed.
Before you even go there, I do NOT weigh five hundred pounds. I weigh one hundred and thirty-eight pounds and with the exception of a crib mattress, ANY MATTRESS should be perfectly happy with me.
I had to face it, the mattress was worse than dead. The mattress had leprosy.
I also had to face the fact that I could not spend another night in that bed. I was going to have to move into Lucia's room until I figured out what to do. This is not a good thing. Part of my very important structure is where I sleep. If I'm traveling or camping or visiting I can sleep just about anywhere and be perfectly happy but in my safe place or places I need to be in my bed. It's actually extremely important. I did not sleep much in Lucia's bed even though it turned out to be a reasonably comfortable bed. Maybe I was just mourning the death of my own bed. Who knows. The reason I spent too many nights in Lucia's bed is that I was avoiding the inevitable. I was going to have to buy another bed. I did want to do this. Buying a bed is a capital expense and until I'm working again there is a moratorium on capital expenditures. I sat down and looked at my fixed income budget and did the math. If I spend x on a mattress here is how it comes out of the budget over the next x number of months. It isn't that I can't do it, it's that it was NOT. IN. THE. PLAN. I can live with things like replacing the furnace (that was actually a line item in the budget) and I understand when things like the pillars that hold up the stupid thing over the porch have to be replaced because they've rotted out and I even understand when it's time to call the plow guy but for some reason I cannot swallow the idea of purchasing a new mattress.
Slowly my neck healed. While it got better I researched mattresses (eff off, memory foam) and I researched vendors and I researched sales. Eventually I'd picked out exactly what and from whom and exactly how much. I transferred exactly how much from my savings into my discretionary account and drove to exactly whom and marched myself into the store. I was greeted by the new kid who happened to be the son of the old kid (who was present and hovering) and told the new kid (I was his second sale ever) EXACTLY what I was there to buy. He looked like a stunned rabbit. I looked around at the price tags. Why are the $3,000 mattresses all at the front of the store? Are you all TRYING to scare people away? I looked to the left and straight back and saw it. THAT, I said. I'm pretty sure that's it. I marched myself toward it. He had to run to catch up.
We stood there looking down at it. Dad said, that is exactly what you're asking for. I removed the test pillow and rolled onto the bed.
Yesssssssss. Oh yes. I'm just going to stay here on my back for a while, OK?
Don't you want to use the pillow?
Pillows are heinous and not to be trusted.
How can I get the feel for a bed if there's a pillow in the way?
Don't you sleep with a pillow?
Not really. I sleep with more of a dishrag until it bothers me and then I toss it to the other side of the bed.
Do you want to take your coat off?
Do you sleep in your coat?
Only if I'm really cold.
OK, I don't sleep in my coat.
Why don't you try the pillow top over here.
I don't really want to get up.
But you should try the pillow top.
You don't understand; I've been recently traumatized by my bed and this is really nice.
But you should try more than one bed.
I hate pillow tops.
But you should try this one.
OK, fine but I hate pillow tops.
I tried the pillow top. I hated it. They're squishy and I'm not fond of that sort of squishy.
I don't need the boxspring. How much.
He gave me a number.
That's not right.
He gave me another number
I handed him my debit card and we discussed delivery dates.
I was in that store for no more than ten minutes.
This mattress will arrive sometime between 1:30 and 3:30 today. The old mattress will be carted away. Everything has been prepared. Nothing is in the way.
Last night I walked past Lucia's room and into mine. I pulled the covers back from the old bed. The crater was almost gone. I got ready for bed and looked at it one more time. And then I got in. I looked up at the ceiling at and thought, this is the bed I brought into this house. This is the bed where I said to my husband, lying head to head, shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip, my left leg thrown up over his right, 'this is the best time, David, the very best time of the entire day'.
I was careful. I didn't want to invoke him all the way back into the room and I'm not sure I can do that anymore anyway but if I could it would probably not be a good idea but I brought him back a little bit. I brought him back and I talked to him about the things I loved about him and how I knew how hard he tried to be the sort of good man he wanted to be. I told him I was glad I'd brought the mattress back upstairs if only for a little while but also glad that it was going because we'd have gotten rid of it anyway and he has his own and I have my own and life just moves on. I told him I was still sorry it was over even though I could see, having read a few posts from the archives lately that it was killing me from the very beginning. I told him I'd changed my mind about it having been a mistake and while we could all have lived without the fallout I was beginning to understand how it was that he fell as hard as he did.
I wished I'd been able to see just how broken he was although I don't know that it would have changed my choices or that I could have done anything other than have more compassion. I would have loved him anyway.